Released: 2005, Casket Music
While thrash metal isn’t exactly the limp and weak genre it was by the mid-90’s there still isn’t an overwhelming amount of bands playing the style right now. I think that is partly the reason why some bands (both old and new) that aren’t exactly all that great, are getting put on a bit of a pedestal now when they wouldn’t have been given a second glance in the sub genre’s heyday. It’s easier to make a name for yourself in 2006 playing thrash metal than playing black metal that’s for sure.
So the United Kingdom’s Enemy Unknown enters the thrash arena in 2005 with their debut album, ALERT STATUS: RED on Casket Music. Enemy Unknown don’t play raucous, violent thrash metal, a style that’s rather prevalent among most thrash bands of today; Enemy Unknown play controlled and fairly melodic thrash metal. The music is written in a pretty simplified fashion, generally no big thrash breaks or tangents to go off on and the band likes to stick to slower tempos. Metallica, Megadeth are the reasonable comparisons that come off in the promo sheet I but this isn’t the classic Metallica and Megadeth, more like the thrashier numbers the band’s pulled out later in the career. A rather unknown band like fellow U.K. thrashers Toranaga might not be out of the question for a reference point and I’d say the quality of the band’s material is with that of a Toranaga (hint: there’s a good reason Toranaga never made much of an impact).
Guitarist Matt Hockham handles the bands vocals, and I word it that way to make a point as Matt really shouldn’t be taking up the vocalist spot. While thrash metal certainly isn’t a style known for its vocals, there’s a line that has to be drawn. Most of the better thrash vocalists aren’t great singers, hell; Paul Baloff is a horrible vocalist. Thing is, he had confidence and attitude, Matt Hockham doesn’t have any talent as a vocalist and neither confidence or attitude. The band’s solos and leads are passable, not terribly good or bad either way. I mean, lead guitar player Owen Heaume clearly has some sense of melody and direction in his solos but like many other players, he isn’t coming up with solos that really set the songs apart and make one take notice. The production gets the job done but the guitars don’t sound full enough and the drums take up way too much sound, sometimes drowning out everything else.
A lack of memorable riffs and rather boring arrangements hurts the band immensely, to the point that, while I’m sure many people will commend the band based solely on their wish to play thrash, the band aren’t creating anything that’s worth looking into. There are a few riffs and melodies here and there that certainly show promise but at the same time, these are sections that sound like they were ripped from a handful of other releases (2:44 onward in “One Above All”, 0:30 in “The Man”).
ALERT STATUS: RED isn’t really worth anyone’s time. There’s almost always some kind of promise in a band’s music if you look hard enough but I think that as thrash metal goes Enemy Unknown don’t have a worthwhile future.